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'The Army was tough I and my about-turn wasn't easy either'

Name: Ginette Smith.

Age: 33.

Current post: Class teacher at St John Fisher RC primary school, Perivale, Middlesex.

Career to date?

I left school at 18 and joined the Army. I began training to be a nurse but it wasn't for me, so I left and worked for the Alliance and Leicester building society for six years. I then worked in an energy consultancy and began an Open University degree in 1994.

I finished the degree in 1997, having got married the year before. I took my exams when my first child was seven weeks old. I first enquired about teaching in March 1998 but all the primary PGCE places were full. I did get a place for September 1999 but by then I was pregnant again, so I deferred for a year. I finished my PGCE at Roehampton in July last year and I'm now an NQT.

Why did you become a teacher?

I'd started doing computing at evening classes because I thought I could work in that field. But once I began, I realised that this was not how I wanted to spend my working day. It all came about halfway through my degree - I just realised I wanted to go into teaching. I knew I didn't fancy working with teenagers, but I decided I would like to teach young children.

What's the best thing that's happened to you so far?

I have chosen a fantastic school and it's a bit of a fluke because you can't really tell from your interview what you're going to end up with. But the support, the teamwork and the friendship here are really superb.

And the worst?

Having to take a day off because my daughter was sick - and feeling guilty as hell. It's not like an office job where you can just phone in sick. There are 26 little people who expect to see the same person every day. It's their secure little world.

What do you like most about teaching?

Building relationships with children. Getting to know them - when they come in and have to tell you how many goals they scored at playtime, or what they got for Christmas, or what's in their lunchboxes.

What is your dream job?

Zero ambition - I'm happy where I am at the moment.

Top tip?

Marry a rich man to pay for your childcare while you train. If it hadn't been for that, I wouldn't be here. My only option was to pay a nanny - it cost about pound;20,000 - during the PGCE. It's not an easy option for anyone with a young family.

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